Iowa Football

Iowa assistant football coach Reese Morgan announces retirement

45-year career started as an assistant coach at Benton Community

Reese Morgan, Iowa’s defensive line coach since 2012, walks on the field before a game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill., on Nov. 17. Morgan announced his retirement on Wednesday. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Reese Morgan, Iowa’s defensive line coach since 2012, walks on the field before a game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill., on Nov. 17. Morgan announced his retirement on Wednesday. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Reese Morgan called Kirk Ferentz Tuesday night and Wednesday the University of Iowa announced Morgan’s retirement.

Morgan, one of the most successful high school coaches in Iowa prep history, is retiring after 19 seasons coaching offensive and defensive lines at the University of Iowa.

“On behalf of our coaches, players and fans, I want to wish Reese and Jo the best in this well-deserved retirement,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said in a release from Iowa. “Always the professional, Reese’s entire life has been dedicated to education and coaching.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to work alongside him and appreciative of what he has meant to our players, our program, and the University of Iowa.”

Morgan, 68, moved from Lorain, Ohio, to attend Wartburg College, where he was a four-year letterwinner as a linebacker and team captain as a senior in 1971.

He never left Iowa and now former players are naming their children after him.

After the 2011 season, Ferentz wanted to make room on the staff for offensive line coach Brian Ferentz. Ferentz knew Morgan could make the change from offensive line to defensive line.

“It was a shock,” Morgan said Wednesday. “Coach said, 'listen, I’m going to rock your world, I want you to coach the defensive line.' My reaction was, ‘OK, coach. I’ll do whatever you ask, because I appreciate it. Whatever that needs to be done.’”

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That wasn’t just it. Right away, Morgan started making calls and doing the learning he needed to prepare.

“It was interesting,” Morgan said. “But you know, coaching is coaching. Defense and offense line are so similar. Instead of pushing, you’re pulling. Instead of pulling, you’re pushing.”

Morgan became part of the Iowa staff after eight years as head coach at Iowa City West High School. West won the state Class 4A titles in 1995, 1998 and 1999. Morgan left the program with a 26-game winning streak.

Between 1994 and 1999, his West High School teams were 62-7, while his overall record at West was 67-20. He has 146 career prep victories and is a member of the Iowa High School Coaches Hall of Fame.

Morgan also served as a teacher (1973-92), assistant football coach (1973-77) and head football coach (1978-91) at Benton Community High School. He led Benton Community into the state playoffs on three occasions.

Morgan was Iowa’s tireless recruiter in the state and farther west into the plains. He’s made jokes about the cars he’s driven and the miles he’s traveled.

“I kind of like driving around,” Morgan said. “I don’t listen to the radio. I just kind of drive, think about where I’m going or on the phone setting up the next visit. It’s kind of peaceful, kind of different. I kind of like being by myself. Sometimes, you go into places that are unique and special. I think it’s kind of fun. You’re in a vehicle, but it’s kind of like the old west, going down a different trail here.”

Morgan knows the pizza at the Tabor Casey’s is the best in town (that would be from recruiting former Iowa defensive end Nate Meier). He’s met the Giltner (Neb.) High School football coach, who at the time was a truck driver, in a Giltner, Neb., gravel parking lot to talk about a player (former defensive end Drew Ott). He’s driven through Nebraska snowstorms to find players who live on farms a dozen or so miles outside of towns with populations of 600 people.

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You have Morgan to thank for former Iowa and Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway of Mount Vernon, S.D., and former Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff of Parkston, S.D.

“There are football players everywhere,” Morgan said. “People like to think they can only be found in metropolitan areas or just from traditional programs or certain geographical parts of the country. There are guys everywhere. I mean Karl Klug up in Caledonia (the former Iowa D-lineman from Minnesota), no one was really recruiting him and it’s a little bit of a remote area, just north of Waukon, that’s a short drive.”

Morgan has coached three Outland Trophy winners, an award presented each year to the top interior offensive lineman in college football, at Iowa.

Brandon Scherff, who was recruited and coached by Morgan his first two years at Iowa, earned the 2014 Outland Trophy. Following the 2003 season, Robert Gallery became Iowa’s third Outland Trophy winner. As the head coach at Benton Community, Morgan coached Chad Hennings, the 1987 winner, who was a defensive tackle at the Air Force Academy. Hennings is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

In his last five seasons as Iowa’s offensive line coach (2007-11), Morgan coached a Hawkeye player who would go on to be a first-round selection in the NFL Draft.

As tight ends coach in 2002, Morgan coached Dallas Clark to consensus All-America honors. Clark was also named winner of the John Mackey Award, which goes annually to college football’s top tight end. Clark was named to at least seven first team All-America teams.

“A genuine and authentic person, Reese handled every challenge we threw his way in magnificent fashion,” Ferentz said in the release. “Every player and coach who had the opportunity to work with Reese Morgan is much better for it.

“It’s like losing a great player — Reese’s shoes will be hard to fill.”

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Morgan attended St. Mary’s High School in Lorain, Ohio. He lettered three times in football and one year in track and field.

Morgan earned his B.A. degree in education from Wartburg and earned a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Northern Iowa.

Morgan and his wife, Jo, have two daughters, Jessica and Caitlin, along with granddaughters Morgan and Hayden, and grandsons Cade and Jace.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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